By: Chandrashekar Bhat
SEVEN paramilitary troops were killed in a blast as they guarded the venue of a presidential visit in southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday (8), officials said.
The attack took place in Balochistan – Pakistan’s largest and most sparsely populated province that harbours a separatist movement engaged in a low-level insurgency for decades.
In recent weeks militants have stepped up attacks with a series of bold raids on state security bases.
Officials said the latest assault hit Sibi district, less than 800 metres from where Pakistani president Arif Alvi attended a function earlier in the day.
Seven members of the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary were killed while 17 others including police officers were wounded, according to senior police official Dostain Dashti.
“The explosion happened some 25 minutes after the president left the area,” he said, adding that initial investigations suggested the blast was a suicide attack.
Hashim Ghilzai, a senior administration official from Balochistan, also confirmed the death toll.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Balochistan – which borders Iran and Afghanistan – is Pakistan’s poorest province despite its abundance of natural resources.
Insurgents have long harboured resentment against lucrative mining and energy projects in the region, saying locals do not see the benefits.
Tensions have further flared in recent years following a massive influx of Chinese investment under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.
China is upgrading energy links and infrastructure as part of a $54 billion (£41.15 bn) programme known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, with both nations wary of security threats to the projects.
Last month, Baloch separatists staged a four-day attack across two locations in the province, killing nine soldiers.